Entrance to the labyrinth.
I have a very busy and fun Christmas this year, full of family and friends. My parents are visiting for a least a month and Alexandra is home from college and preparing to move to Los Angeles in January. I have my usual big Swedish Smorgasbord planned for Christmas Eve and a large family reunion the weekend after Christmas at my home. Whew. I’m looking forward to all the festivities but I do try to pace myself so that this time of the year is a joy and not just exhaustion.
So last week I took a morning off to celebrate Advent/Winter Solstice. A friend and I met for coffee and then headed to the local college to a secret labyrinth hidden in a corner of the woods.
This labyrinth is made of brick set into the ground and is invisible until you are practically standing on it. All bundled up to keep warm on an overcast, crisp morning, I headed into the labyrinth. The path was narrow and sometimes hard to see with the matted grass and leaves which matched the brick. I slowly wound my way in, back out, back in, around, out, in and then I’m always surprised when I finally make it to the center, the heart. I waited for my friend to get to the center and then I retraced my steps and carefully unwound my way to the beginning. I then wandered the grounds a bit, looking at the empty trees with just a few berries hanging on. It was so peaceful and I felt that I had my moment of contemplation for Advent, this gentle time of anticipation. Nothing to prepare, nothing to gather, nothing to plan, just the quiet grey day and me.
I’ve always planned to put a labyrinth out on the farm and this spring is going to be the perfect time to build one. My father-in-law left us his beloved old bulldozer which will be perfect to smooth the old lawn that has become rough with age. So I’m scouting my own secret location to build my labyrinth while the ground is bare. I have beautiful old bricks piled behind the barn that will be perfect for defining the path. All is there just waiting for the day that the labyrinth will be ready for me to wind my way to the heart and bring back out the joy.
Corporate Accounting Office, includes binoculars for watching birds and animals
Now that my children are grown you would think that would be good evidence that my own childhood was long gone, relegated to 70’s retrospectives and fading Polaroid pictures. Yet everyday my childhood is part of my life. I was thinking this morning how the skills I use the most were learned long ago in a more groovy time.
When I was sixteen my father had me spend the summer in his office working the front desk, taking money, writing receipts, calling insurance companies and making copies. What do I do now? The same thing for my husband’s business; make deposits, send payments, write payroll and fill out tax forms. If a real accountant saw my system they would cringe. It isn’t very sophisticated but the IRS has been content with my forms so I continue to work in my way. I at least have upgraded to a computer but essentially these skills come from long ago.
Every day I cook. Around 5 or 5:30 I head toward the kitchen to fix dinner. I turn on the Food Network to keep me company and provide inspiration but in reality I’m not a “foodie”. I still just cook the simple dishes that I learned to make as a teenager. My mother always cooked from “scratch” and the meals were simple and I was required to help every night. I won’t win any awards but none of my guests go hungry either. I learned long ago to keep it simple so cooking everyday is not a chore but just part of life. From my very first solo cooking attempt of deviled eggs to my everyday suppers of meat and vegetables my childhood comes back to me.
As a child I was trained to be a missionary for the church. I was to have all the correct skills to go out and serve. So of course I learned to play the piano so that I could accompany hymns and play for choirs. I don’t think that went well as I’m definitely not the model parishioner as expected. I also wasn’t the accomplished pianist I longed to be. Although I swore off playing in public years ago I still play for pleasure. A few weeks ago a neighbor called me to see if I would play for a new children’s choir at her tiny church in our tiny town. I didn’t even know how she knew I played but she woke up one morning with a clear thought to ask me. So now my rusty old piano skills are perfect for these precious children. I might not be asked to perform in concert halls but I can play Jesus Loves Me and Away in the Manger for the local Methodist Church. These childhood skills are happily revived to serve in the same way as originally intended. I love being with the children and being a part of my little community.
Hamilton and I enjoy our simple country life and are living in his childhood home again. We honor the wonderful gifts our childhoods gave us; they weren’t perfect but just right for the lives we lead today. Please don’t ask us to be on committees, raise money, start foundations, we just are not cut out for that but our childhoods gave us the perfect gifts to enjoy life and serve in our little corner of the world.